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What Is a Grapple Truck?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A grapple truck is a specially designed vehicle that features a retractable and often articulated arm with a grappling hook or jaw at one end for use in construction and sanitation purposes. These trucks are also often used in logging, since they are useful for grabbing items and transporting them over short distances. A grapple truck will often feature a payload area such as a bed or dump attachment, and the heavy or bulky items picked up with the grappling hook can then be loaded into the back of the truck for transport.

A loader and body system is a type of grapple truck that features the boom arm and payload area for transport. The arm is often mounted behind the cab of the truck, in between the cab and the container, though it can also be mounted at the rear of the truck behind the container or payload. The boom arm can reach out to either side of the truck, and a grapple or bucket can pick up the bulky items. Those items can then be loaded into the container for transport. This is one of the more common grapple truck models.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

A variation on the loader and body system is the roll-off grapple loader, which also features a payload area. The container in this payload area, however, can be released from the chassis of the truck when full. This is done by using a cable system that moves the container, and an elevator system that will tip the container down toward the ground. This system allows an empty container to be loaded onto the grapple truck, and when that container is filled, it can be unloaded quickly and easily, then replaced with another empty container.

Rear-mounted grapple loader units are basically units solely mounted to a truck, rather than featuring the grapple and payload area. The grapple system can be operated with a larger operating area, meaning it can grab items to the rear of the truck as well as to the sides. This type of grapple truck must be used in conjunction with another vehicle such as a dump truck that can haul off the materials that are moved by the grapple. In some cases, a trailer can be mounted to the rear-mounted grapple truck to allow materials to be loaded into the trailer, but this again cuts down the effective area in which the grapple can operate because the rear of the truck will be blocked by the trailer.

Discussion Comments


A grapple delivery truck brought some boulders to my mother's house. She wanted to incorporate them into her garden, but they were far too heavy for anyone to lift on their own.

The truck had a grapple that could rotate full circle. It could reach out over thirty feet, so even though the truck could not drive over her pansies to back up against the area where she needed the boulders placed, it could get close enough for the grapple to extend to where it needed to be.

My mother's eccentric tastes probably shocked the delivery guy. He didn't know that he was taking boulders to someone's flower garden, but at least he didn't have to struggle to lift and lower them!


@shell4life – Grapple trucks do come in handy for removing all kinds of debris. My neighbor has a cow pasture, and I have witnessed him using one to transport a dead cow.

The cow had been lying down for a whole day, and I thought that was unusual. I told my neighbor about it, and he went out to investigate.

The next day, the grapple truck arrived. It effortlessly picked the cow up and dropped it gently into the back. I don't know exactly where he was taking it, but I assume he has some sort of cow graveyard further back on his land.


My dad borrowed his friend's grapple truck to clear out a bunch of forest debris. A tornado had hit the land behind our house, and twisted trunks, huge branches, and clumps of leafy treetops were everywhere.

The giant arm and hook could reach out a good distance from the truck to grab the heavy tree parts. It would have taken weeks for a few men with saws to clear out all the mess, but my dad and his friend were able to clear it all out in two days with the grapple truck.

It was impressive to see the arm and hook lifting large tree trunks into the air and dumping them into the back of the truck. It lessened the sting of losing so much forest a little, and it saved my dad a lot of physical exertion.


Most of the dump trucks that come through my area have a man who rides on the back and gets off to empty garbage cans into the truck. However, I went to a neighboring city last week and happened to get behind a different type of dump truck.

This one did have a grapple. I was a bit surprised to see a big blue arm reach out from the side of the dump truck and grab a big garbage bin. It picked it way up off the ground and tipped it over into the back.

When it was done, it placed the garbage bin back onto the person's driveway, and the truck drove away. I was impressed that this could be done, but I also felt bad for all the garbage men that must have lost jobs because of this type of truck.

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      Man with hands on his hips